The national switch to living online has caused a noticeable shift in our economy as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With little in-person interactions taking place, there is no need to have a full staff in places of business. The cutting down on staff has caused an immense loss of jobs, placing more and more families in difficult situations.
Some local restaurants in Downtown Lakeland are now offering curbside pick-up. Unfortunately, the stores that were unable to adapt to the new “normal” were left with little to no choice on what to do. With the majority of the population shopping online, doing curbside pick-up, or simply not needing certain items anymore, the smaller retailers that are unable to offer such services are suffering. The closing trend extends from big box stores, like Nordstrom, to small businesses that are located in our own backyards.
A prime example of this is Nathan’s Men’s Store, located on East Main Street and South Kentucky Avenue in Downtown Lakeland. Harris Estroff, the owner of Nathan’s Men’s Store, noted that in the beginning of March, his closing sale was significantly more popular than it is right now.
Nathan’s Men’s Store was first purchased in Lakeland in 1942. Originally founded by Nathan and Mildred Estroff, the store is now run by their son, Harris Estroff. Harris was brought up in the business, but never really had interest in it.
“I didn’t take it seriously until after college, which was around 1974,” Harris said.
In 1992, Harris bought the space next door. He wanted to expand his store so that they could offer a larger selection of products. Nathan’s Men’s Store has been a primarily men’s clothing store in Lakeland. The staff prides themselves on guaranteeing the public the best service. They fit customers and help them pick out clothes. The one-on-one service is a key factor in Nathan’s Men’s Store’s brand. They offer alterations, product repair, and more.
Now windows of the storefront are crowded with signs stating, “Final Liquidation,” and “Retirement Sale.” Inside, the merchandise is all marked down and on final sale. The store offers a large amount of brand name clothing ranging from Vineyard Vines to Tommy Bahama, and they’re all included in the sale.
The fixtures, lights and clothing racks, are all for sale as well. Almost all of the items inside the store are 75 percent off, and there is still quite a bit of inventory left. Harris felt that now was as good a time as any to close.
“The truth is, I had planned to retire before the pandemic,” Harris said. “I started the sale before, but didn’t know it was a closing sale. I wanted to retire before and had planned on it. I started the sale the last ten days of March. In April, we were closed the entire month.”
Harris made clear he was open to the possibility of someone buying his store from him, but since that did not happen, he decided to retire instead. He stated that his sons are both happy doing other things with their lives and his daughter has a family of her own. Harris doesn’t want to force any of his kids into a business they don’t want to be in.
The official closing of Nathan’s Men’s Store has not yet been announced, but Harris is actively trying to clear his inventory. If the leftover items don’t sell, he plans on selling them elsewhere.
Nathan’s Men’s Store’s exemplary service and dedication to the city of Lakeland and its people will surely be missed, but never forgotten. The community will always remember the small business that was a primary retailer of men’s clothing for the past 79 years along with the Estroff family that created it all.
“I’ve had a great run for me and my family,” Harris said.